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This study was on the impact of “This Week” on the communication climate of employees of Elf petroleum Nigeria limited, EPNL, and Port Harcourt. Four researches questions were formulated for the study. The content analysis research method was used. The population of study was 52 editions of “This Week” published between July, 2007 and July, 2008 while the sample size was 26 editions. The findings revealed that “The Week”, being a weekly published was an effective medium of internal communication in the organization. It was further gathered that to an extent, the newsletter gave prominence to employee-related issues. The findings also showed that the direction of courage of employee issues in the house journal was positive hence, building a good communication climate for the employees. It was also discovered that with the total of 60% courage of high employee-related issues, “This Week” has positively impacted on the communication climate of EPNL’s employees. The study of recommended a complete overhauling of “This Week” to increase its number of pages and total dedication to employee issues than host communities. It also recommended that employee-relation stories should often occupy front page, and that even stories that are unfavorable to management should always be carried. The study further recommended that the house journal should assume more interactive status and not a management harangues, and that the introduction of cartoons should be considered so that the newsletter can be bit biting on management, daring where articles tremble.
THE PROBLEM AND ITS SETTING
1.1 Background to the Study
Communication is to society, what a skeleton is to human body (Udoakah 2006, p. 77). This shows that no relationship flourishes without establishing the maintaining communication networks. Hence, the better the communication structure, the healthier the relationship.
These envisaged favorable relationships transcend the simple interpersonal ones to those of complex organizations and major establishments in various sectors. The significance of this has necessitated and justified the advocacy of effective communication pathways in organizations so as to increase productivity without puncturing the balloon of goodwill to any of the public.
Put simply, this forms of major thrust of the dimension of public relation that is essentially for the staff of any organization. Employee relations float on the waters of internal communication. It concerns itself with all forms of communication directed at the employees of an organization for the purpose of harmonizing relationships between the management and the internal publics.
According to Stauss and Hoffmann (2000, p. 143) as cited in Tench and Yeomans (2006, p.334), internal communication is the planning use of communication actions to systematically influence the knowledge, attitude and behaviors of current employees. These employees could be communicated through a variety of methods, including newsletters, notice boards, staff briefings and intranets.
Tench and Yeomans (2006, p.337) posits that the strategies purpose of internal communication can perhaps best be summaries as one that is concerned with building two-way involving relationships with internal public, with the goal of improving organizational effectiveness. Their justification is anchored on the fact that better informed employees were thought to be better motivated employees who, in turn contribution to increased productivity – this belief still holds water today.
The basic communication needs of employees, they argue, are: general information about the organization, specific information to help them to do their jobs, clarity about their roles, a clear company/organization vision, information on workplace practices, opportunities to be involved and consulted, feedback on performance, access to training and development, and access to communication channels.
Of all the media literature that could be used for effective internal communication, the house journal seems to be the most appropriate since it could enhance feedback, or has feedback mechanism, and thereby building good employee-management relationship.
Benson-Eluwa (1998) avers that house journals or organs are special information media created in an organization to share information and to secure the participation of all employees in the company.
There are basically five types of house journal: the sales bulletin, the newsletter, magazine, tabloid newsletter, and the wall newsletter. Different organizations public one type or the other. Their choice of a particular house journal against another is informed by the target public in most cases. For instance, “The Shell Bulletin” is a monthly news magazine for the staff of shell Nigeria; “Mobil community News” is a newspaper published by ExxonMobil to its host communities; Mobil news” is for ExxonMobil employees, while Elf petroleum Nigeria limited (EPNL) Published “ partnership” newspaper on sustainable development to its host communities. But the house journal of focus to this study is “This Week”- a weekly newsletter for staff of EPNL and TUPNI (subsidiaries of total).
A newsletter is just what the name implies – a letter that carries news about an organization to its employees or constituents. The readers are usually interested if the newsletter takes the right tone, it can be valuable channel of communication.
A newsletter can promote organizational objectives, but it should not be used to mount harangues. If it is nothing more than the voice of management, it may be a failure, but if it provides genuine two-way communication, it can be a valuable part of a public relations program (Wilcox and Nolte 199, p. 321).
Wilcox and Nolte (1990, p.321) mention some of the employee-related issues worth including in an organization’s newsletter to include: job anniversaries, sports, promotion, transfers, awards and honors, human interest, work features and employee organizations.
When these issues are not taken care of by any organization’s house journal, chances are that informal groups are likely to spring up, and grapevines will blossom, and this could be devastating to any organization. The prevailing effect of this sets the tone of communication climate in the organization.
According to Adler and Elmhorst (1999, p.126), social scientist use communication climate to describe the quality of personal relationships in an organization. They say the weather metaphor suggested by the term ‘climate’ is quite apt because the mood of workplace can be described as sunny and calm, cold and stormy, or in similar terms. Organizations create an overall climate, which can be healthy or polluted; but within that environment individual relationships have their own microclimates. For instance, an interaction with one colleague might be described as icy while that with another is warm.
Communication climate can define organization climate or job satisfaction, or otherwise. Positive climate occur when people believed they are appreciated. Scholars have labeled messages that express feeling of value as “confirming” and those that fail express valuing or those that explicitly show a lack of valuing – as “disconfirming” (Adler and Elmhorst, 1999, p. 126).
A communication climate is supportive when it focuses on solving problems, not ‘controlling’ others; almost, not manipulating; show concern for others; demonstrate an attitude of equality; listen with an open mind; and give praises where necessary of course, one can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
On the contrary, Adler and Elmhorst (1999, p.126) also says that a defensive climate is based on arrogance, displaying superiority attitude and are not bothered to give explanations to subordinates. There, undue criticisms fill the air using the “you” language and pointing a verbal finger of accusation at the receiver.
Since organization communication precedes and gives rise to organizational climate, and communication climate specifically, it, therefore, means “This Week” – an internal organizational publication of EPNL is capable of impacting on the communication climate of employees of the company. But this shall be contingent upon the prominence accorded to staff issues on the content of this house journal, or otherwise relegating them to a position of insignificance as shall be attested to by the employees or revealed by content analyzing “This Week” within a defined time frame.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Organizations have used house journals among other media literature and communication methods, to achieved public relations objectives in the different dimensions of public relations.
However, it is not always the case that such an approach has succeeded as contents of some internal house journals seem to be catering for internal publics without sufficiently addressing the interest of the public(s) (the employees) as if it were meant for community relations, government relations or even international public relations purposes. Or, worse still, as management’s mouthpiece.
Sometime late last year, there was a serious face of between management and employees of EPNL, Port Harcourt. This paralyzed work in the company for about a week and security personal were drafted into the company. The bone of contention was an alleged extension of retirement age of foreign expatriate from 60-65 years, and appointing an underserved expatriate into a management position which the Nigerian employees frowned at.
The following Monday when work resumed, “this week” came out traditionally, but instead of carrying stories of the event that held the company to ransom the previous week, it covered management visit to Brick House (Rivers State Government House), building of new database on scholarships/skill acquisition and how new Egi Youth Federation executive visited the company (Egi is one of the host communities of EPNL). Very little attention was paid to staff issues on the column called “solidarity” in that week’s edition. And it was natural that most employees had no interest in reading the publication because they probably felt that t heir interest was not covered.
This way, the essence of “This Week” as a house journal, primarily meant for internal public and circulation, that should have served as a potent tool for nourishing the internal communication climate of the organization, gets defeated since today’s employees cannot be so film-flamed by management as it hitherto was. Indeed, employees are becoming more aware of the antics and gimmicks of the management cadre. In essence, if public relations require effective relationships between the organization and its different publics, then charity should being at home” employees should not be taken for granted. In the case of EPNL, “This Week” could have served as an interactive channel and thereby creating a positive communication climate that would have forestalled the face-off which crippled activates ink the company.
It is against the backdrop of aforestated situation that it becomes expedient to question: to what extent has “This Week” impacted on the communication climate of EPNL employees (management and non-management)?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are as follows:
i. To determine the frequency of publication of EPNL;s house journal –“This Week”
ii. To ascertain the prominence and attention accorded employees issue in “This Week”
iii. To determine the direction of coverage of employee issues in the house journal.
iv. To assess the impact of “This Week” on communication climate of employees of EPNL.
1.4 Research Question
i. What is the frequency of publication of ENPL’s house journal –“This Wee
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